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Nearly one-in-three robberies involve phone theft and consumers lose more than $30 billion each year to lost and stolen phones; in Minnesota, recent cell phone thefts at the Mall of America and the University of Minnesota have threatened public safety

In a letter to wireless industry leaders, Klobuchar urges companies to take action to stem mobile device thefts by ensuring consumers have access to the most advanced security features such as a “kill switch” 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today called on the wireless industry to take action to crack down on cell phone thefts. The thefts are becoming a growing problem across the country with nearly one-in-three robberies involving phone theft. It’s estimated that each year consumers lose more than $30 billion to lost or stolen phones. In Minnesota, recent cell phone thefts at the Mall of America and the University of Minnesota have threatened public safety. In a letter to wireless industry leaders, Klobuchar urged companies to take action to stem mobile device thefts by ensuring consumers have access to the most advanced security features, such as a “kill switch” that would deter criminals who intend to illegally resell the devices.

“Mobile devices aren’t just telephones anymore – increasingly people’s livelihoods depend on them,” Klobuchar said. “That’s why we need to do more to crack down on criminals who are stealing and reselling these devices, costing consumers billions every year. The wireless industry needs to step up to the plate and address these thefts, and make sure consumers have the most advanced security technology at their fingertips.”

Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chairs the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, and has been a leader in standing up for consumers and boosting competition in the marketplace. She authored legislation—the Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act and the Wireless Consumer Choice Act—to strengthen consumer protections in the wireless industry, including looking at allowing consumers to unlock their phones. Klobuchar has also pushed the FCC to examine the competitive impact on consumers from the wireless carriers’ exclusive arrangements with cell phone manufacturers. Klobuchar also cosponsored legislation led by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that adds criminal penalties of up to five years in jail for tampering with cell phones in order to circumvent the service ban on a stolen phone.

The full text of the letter is below:

December 30, 2013

Mr. Lowell McAdam                                                  Mr. Dan Hesse

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer                    Chief Executive Officer

Verizon Communications, Inc.                                 Sprint Communications, Inc.

140 West Street                                                         200 Sprint Parkway

New York, New York 10007                                     Overland Park, Kansas 66351

 

Mr. Randall Stephenson                                           Mr. John Legere

Chief Executive Officer                     `                       President and Chief Executive Officer

AT&T, Inc.                                                                    T-Mobile USA, Inc.

208 South Akard Street                                            12920 Southeast 38th Street

Dallas, Texas 75202                                                   Bellevue, Washington 98006

 

Mr. Kenneth Meyers

President and Chief Executive Officer

U.S. Cellular Corporation

8410 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, Suite 700

Chicago, Illinois 60631

 

Dear Messrs. McAdam, Stephenson, Hesse, Legere, and Meyers:

I am writing to express my concern regarding the increase in crimes involving the theft of mobile devices across the country.  As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, I understand that consumers are utilizing more mobile technology and this is spurring growth in our economy.  Unfortunately, more and more consumers are also at risk of being targeted by criminals looking to steal cell phones and other devices for illegal resale.  I appreciate the work the industry has done in creating a database to keep stolen phones from being reactivated, but more action is needed.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, almost one-in-three robberies involve phone theft and the cost to consumers of lost or stolen phones is more than $30 billion each year.  I’ve heard from local law enforcement officials about the continued call for the wireless industry to engage with them further and to adopt “kill switch” technologies on devices.  Additionally, state Attorneys General have suggested that wireless carriers have not taken adequate steps to fight cell phone theft. 

As Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, I expect wireless carriers to compete against one another to ensure consumers are offered the most advanced security features and offerings.  Your five companies are the nation’s leading wireless carriers, collectively serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s wireless subscribers. With that market share comes an obligation to do all you can to utilize technologies available to protect consumers.

While I understand your companies are continuing to work with law enforcement on the stolen cell phone database, it is clear that consumers want and deserve a comprehensive strategy to prevent mobile device thefts.  That is why I respectfully request that each of your companies provides my Judiciary Subcommittee detailed information on the following issues by January 9, 2014:

  • Information explaining whether you have had offers by handset manufacturers to install “kill switch” technology, and, if so, why your company has or has not adopted such technology. 
  • Information about whether you have considered including this solution on handsets made by manufacturers now competing with Apple’s activation lock technology that operates as a “kill switch” on iPhones.  If not, please describe your reasoning behind the decision made by your company. 
  • How your company will include such technology options at no cost to consumers in the future and how your phone security offerings differ from your competitors. 

Identifying ways to curb mobile device theft is a top priority of mine and I will continue to advocate for the American wireless consumer.  I also believe additional action to protect wireless consumers is necessary and that's why I am asking you for this information.  The status quo is not acceptable.

Sincerely,

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